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02-034
For Release: May 23, 2002

Katherine K. Martin
Media Relations Office
216/433-2406
katherine.martin@grc.nasa.gov

Lori J. Rachul
Media Relations Office
216/433-8806
lori.j.rachul@grc.nasa.gov


Aerospace Technology Improvements Garner NASA Awards

Six new technologies involving advanced space travel, aviation safety and more efficient airplane engines have been selected to receive awards for innovativeness in NASA's Turning Goals into Reality (TGIR) Awards Program. Work on these technologies was led by the agency's Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, with participation from other NASA centers, industry, and academia.

Sponsored by NASA's Office of Aerospace Technology, the awards were presented during the 2002 TGIR Conference in Santa Clara, Calif., near NASA's Ames Research Center, May 21-23. Conference events focused on new NASA developments in aeronautics and space transportation and what is needed in the future to continue U.S. successes in these areas. This year's event is being held in conjunction with the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) X-Vehicle symposium.

The following categories of awards and descriptions of work were recognized:

Advance Space Transportation: Shuttle RSRM Thermal Barrier Development Team A new braided carbon fiber thermal barrier has been developed - and is being certified for flight - that would protect critical nozzle joints and O-ring seals in the Space Shuttle reusable solid rocket motors. The new thermal barrier reduces the temperature of the 5500°F rocket combustion gas and permits only relatively cool (<200 °F) gas to reach the O-rings. This important new technology improves on already high Shuttle safety margins and enables solid rocket motor joint assembly in significantly less time (approximately one-sixth the time) as compared to the previous joint fill compound approach with much higher degrees of reproducibility. Re-designed joints incorporating the thermal barriers are scheduled to enter service on a Space Shuttle mission in early 2005. Though originally developed for the space program, there are also many industrial applications anticipated for this technology.

Aviation Safety: Aviation Weather Information & Communications Research Team The team developed weather presentation and communications technologies resulting in cockpit weather information systems being introduced into the marketplace. Researchers at Glenn and NASA's Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va., worked with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), industry and academia to achieve better crew situational awareness. It is anticipated that these systems will result in a 50% reduction in aircraft accidents attributable to a lack of weather situational awareness. In addition, more than 60% of air traffic delays are attributed to weather, and the technologies developed will significantly improve operational efficiency by allowing strategic avoidance of weather.

Emissions Reduction: Turbomachinery Disk Alloy Development Team Materials researchers at Glenn in collaboration with industry developed a new disk alloy for commercial and military engines. This nickel-based powder metallurgy superalloy can withstand much higher temperatures than disks currently in operation. With this increased durability at high temperatures, engines can then function at higher pressure ratios, translating into increased fuel efficiency, lower fuel burn and reduced aircraft emissions. Alternatively, engine manufacturers can use the new material in engines without increasing pressure ratios allowing increased time between required maintenance, since its operational life is estimated to be 30 times longer than current disks.

Noise Reduction: Engine Noise Reduction Flight Research Team In a collaborative effort among Glenn and Langley researchers and various industry partners, a scarfed inlet, a variable-area exhaust nozzle, and several different chevron nozzle concepts were successfully flight-tested on Honeywell's Falcon 20 testbed aircraft. The chevron nozzles were also tested on NASA's Lear Jet. These technologies are being rapidly incorporated into commercial aircraft engines and are needed to assure that aircraft meet stringent noise requirements. These demonstrated noise reduction technologies will immediately begin to improve the quality of life for those who live and work near airports by reducing the amount of engine noise to which they are exposed.

Mobility: Oil-Free Turbomachinery Team Researchers at Glenn successfully rig tested oil-free air bearings through the range of high-speed, sustained-load and elevated-temperature conditions typically seen in the core of a gas turbine engine. A NASA-patented coating technology allowed the bearings to operate at temperatures higher than oil lubricants can withstand. This test of prototype radial foil air bearings is leading the way to a completely oil-free version of the Williams International EJ-22 turbine engine. Oil-Free technology produces significant benefits, including reduction of engine weight by 15 percent, higher-speed operation yielding 20 percent higher power density and 50 percent reduction in engine maintenance costs. Analysis performed at Glenn has shown that for a 50-passenger regional jet, this technology can reduce direct operating cost by 8 percent, translating to an annual savings of $180,000. With 450 regional jets in service today, the savings would be significant.

Mission Reach: Iridium-Coated Rhenium Rocket Chamber Material Development Team Glenn researchers developed and matured an iridium-coated rhenium material system for radiation-cooled rockets, which is the first major advance in on-board chemical propulsion for satellites in 30 years. The new chambers operate at 2200 degrees centigrade, increasing the operating temperature by 900 degrees over state-of-the-art chamber materials. This increase in operating temperature allows a significant reduction of fuel film cooling in bipropellant engines, with a corresponding increase in combustion efficiency. NASA has worked with commercial rocket engine manufacturers to mature and insert this technology into the design cycle.

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